This week’s Infrastructure Focus saw Agriland make the trip to just outside Bandon in Co. Cork to speak to Scott Kingston who has recently installed an underpass.
Scott, alongside a strong team consisting of his father Roy, mother Jennifer, sister Sophia, partner, Annette and full-time employees Marco and Anthony along with some part-time staff run a 380-cow herd of crossbred cows.
The herd of cows are split in two, 190 cows each and are both allocated 170ac of ground, which also contains silage ground within each block.
The two blocks are split by a main road which leads into Bandon and since going into milk five years ago, cows have had to walk across this main road over to the 24-unit milking parlour.
The task of bringing the cows across the road required the help of four people and meant time was lost getting other jobs done around the farm and just prolonged the length of each working day.
Scott and the team felt it was time to bite the bullet and get and underpass installed and only for a delay in getting planning, it would have been done a lot sooner.
Speaking to Agriland on his farm in Co. Cork, Scott said: “Originally this was a beef and tillage farm up until we went into milk a few years ago.
“We are milking 380 crossbred cows on two blocks, with the herd of cows split in two since we put the underpass in.
“One herd grazes our own block of land while the second herd grazes the other block across the road which is my uncle’s that we rent from him.
“The idea behind splitting the herd is purely down to cow performance, ease of management and creating a better work-life balance for the team.
“For example today, Marco, our full-time employee starts milking the first herd of cows between 2:30p.m and 3:00p.m.
“Then around 3:45p.m, I’ll go for the second herd of herd cows across the road and then I’ll come into the parlour and milk them myself while Marco heads off home.
“It means that no one person is stuck milking 380 cows or 16 rows of cows and by doing this it helps create a good work-life balance.
“The problem up until before we got the underpass is that we would have to round up four people to bring all 380 cows across the busy main road and meant other jobs were being left to help bring the cows over and it just wasn’t sustainable or efficient way of operating the farm.”
Having decided enough was enough, the Kingstons applied for planning to install an underpass.
However some complications delayed the process of getting started and prolonged the need to walk cows across the busy road.
The job of getting the underpass in and allowing traffic travel along this part of the road took less than two weeks to complete.
The site where the underpass ended up being installed saw the least amount of land lost compared to other options the Kingston’s had on the table.
The underpass itself was sourced and installed by Croom Concrete, with Mulcahy Steel carrying out the groundwork around the underpass.
The underpass measures 22m long (which equates to 11 culverts), 4.5m wide and 2.1 high.
A tank was installed at one end of the tunnel to collect any run-off and slurry generated by cattle walking through the underpass.
Higher than standard precast walls were installed above the tunnel at one side of the underpass, to ensure road users could visibly see where the tunnel is from a distance, at the request of Cork County Council.
The reason for this was because this side of the underpass is facing into a steep hill and required more ground to be dug out in order to get it level with the land across the road so that a level base for the underpass could be achieved.
So for this reason, the precast walls had to be higher as so that they could be seen from the road, due to the sheer drop from the road to the floor base of the underpass.
Stepping the steep side of the underpass
As cows make their way across the road to the milking parlour they are met with a steep incline.
Due to the topography of the land, the Kingstons did their best to cut into the hill as best they could in the hope of creating a nice incline that wasn’t too hard for cows to walk up to the parlour.
The Kingstons own block of land rises gradually from the main road where the underpass was installed so it was always going to be a tough task creating a walkway up from the underpass that wasn’t going to be that steep.
Scott said that despite their still being a fair fall down into the underpass that cows have taken to it well and aren’t one bit fussed about it.
Although, he did say that the plan is to step this side leading into the underpass in the summer to make it that bit easier for the cows coming to and from the parlour as they will be walking through the underpass four times a day seven days a week.
The Kingstons also constructed new roadways on the 170ac block of land across from their own block of ground.
Scott said it took the guts of three months laying the roadways, driving stakes and getting fences up.
‘A game changer’
Scott described the new underpass a game changer, with so much time now being saved, along with the stress and hassle of having to move cows across the busy road a distant memory.
The cost of the project from planning to completion stands at €160,000.
Scott said: “It’s been such relief getting the underpass in. The farm runs a lot more smoothly and efficiently now.
“The days of having to round up four people to bring the cows across the road and back every evening is now gone thankfully.
“The original goal of having the cows split into two herds is now a reality thanks to the underpass and it is so much more straightforward and easier to manage, as one person goes for the first herd and milks them while I go for the second herd, by myself an hour or so later, and milk them myself.
“No one is being taken away from what they are doing elsewhere on the farm to help bring the cows across the road.
“Furthermore, cow performance has also improved as a result of the move to splitting the herd in two.
“It’s also a lot safer now knowing that we never have to walk a cow across that road again, and that traffic can pass this neck of the road not having to be held up by cows, so it’s a win win for everyone.
“Hopefully now that we have the underpass, it will make us a more attractive option for us to attract staff here to work with us which is currently what we are looking for.”